Sweet Home Alabama (1/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


Legally Blonde was such a delightful movie last year that I was looking forward to Sweet Home Alabama and another diverting comedy with Reese Witherspoon.  Alas, ‘twas not to be. 

 We are supposed to buy into the fact that Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) can run away from her husband in the south, Jake (Josh Lucas), go to New York, become a famous dress designer, become engaged to the phenomenally wealthy Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), the son of the New York Mayor (Candice Bergen), return to the south and become again involved with Jake, even though all they ever do is fight and argue.  Andrew is an attractive, adoring, intelligent, generous man terribly in love with Melanie.  Jake is an itinerant bum who does nothing but abuse Melanie and from whom Melanie has already run.  Yeah, sure.

 Just as in The Banger Sisters, these storytellers seem to think the audience is so dense that it will assume something that’s not in evidence.  In The Banger Sisters it was that the never-grown-up groupie, Suzette, brought a philosophy that enlightened all those she encountered, even though Suzette uttered no philosophy.  In Sweet Home Alabama the assumption is that there’s something deep and affecting between Melanie and Jake that might overcome the relationship between Melanie and Andrew, even though nothing’s introduced that would warrant that conclusion.  The only things we find out about the relationship between Melanie and Jake is that Jake was the first person to kiss her when she was about seven years old, and that Jake went to New York after Melanie split, looking for her.  In addition to presenting nothing that would justify affection between her and Jake, she’s unfriendly, even cruel, to her former acquaintances in Alabama.  So why would she consider, even for a moment, abandoning her exciting life in New York to return to her life in Alabama?  The script certainly doesn’t explain. 

 Jake is yet another unshaven lout.  There seems to be an epidemic in Hollywood this year of leading men who don’t shave.  Am I missing something?  Should we all throw away our razors?  Is this attractive?  Jake’s beard never grows and is never cut.  It always is exactly the same length. 

 The people responsible for this effort, Director Andy Tennant, scriptwriter C. Jay Cox, and story creator Douglas J. Eboch, have a vision of the south that’s directly out of the primer How to Write About the South Even Though You Don’t Know Your Elbow From Third Base.  It would serve no purpose to bore you with the hackneyed stereotypes we encounter along the lumbering way to the end of this thing (yes, it does end, even though one begins to doubt it ever will), but needless to say they don’t leave a cliché unturned. 

 There’s nothing about this film that’s logical or believable.  The one good thing, and, believe me, it’s the only good thing, is Candice Bergen.  She is hilarious as the hard-bitten, caustic Mayor of New York and mother of Andrew.  Unfortunately, she’s only on the screen for, at most, ten minutes.  The 99 minutes she’s not on screen are excruciatingly painful. 

 The End